Tag Archives: cursed item

The Book of Shocks and Shivers [1982]

  • The Book of Shocks and Shivers – Debbie PSL: #49 [1982]

Plot

Patsy Wood has talented siblings, so at times she feels quite ordinary beside them and wishes that she was good at something too. Despite her siblings or classmates winning prizes, she is not jealous and shows her good nature by genuinely being pleased for them and she shows her thoughtfulness when she finds a spectacles case and returns them to it’s owner. It is this act of helpfulness that actually leads to a lot of trouble for Patsy! The owner is a strange woman and Patsy finds the cottage she lives in quite creepy. Still not wanting to be rude, when the woman says she will grant her wishes, she does make a wish – that she could be different. The old woman woman sends Patsy on her way with a children’s picture book.

Patsy soon forgets all about the encounter and doesn’t notice when she knocks the book off her shelf, before going to school the next morning. At school, Patsy begins bragging about her sister and her dad’s new car. Her friends are also not happy with Patsy, when they miss their bus, waiting for Patsy to finish tidying her appearance. Then later at youth club netball game Patsy makes nasty comments about the other team’s appearance. At home Patsy wonders what made her act in such a way. She then notices the picture book on the floor, open on a page with a picture of a peacock. She finds it strange that she was acting proud and vain like a peacock, but thinks it’s silly to think there’s a connection. The next day, Patsy’s sister, Lorna, is looking through the book and leaves it open on an owl page. Meanwhile Patsy surprises herself by remembering all the answers for a history test, unfortunately it surprises her teacher too, who thinks she cheated! As she’s never been in trouble before the headmistress takes her word, but expects  this better standard of work across all her subjects if this is the result of her making an effort. Later on a charity walk, the mist starts coming down and Patsy thinks they should turn back. She can’t persuade anyone else to come with her and while she is safe, she later finds out she missed out on a lot of fun. The others sheltered at farmers house, helped the police find missing children and completed their charity goal. It is after this that Patsy finds the book opened on the owl. So the next day she decides to try opening up to a page herself.

She chooses a bee as she thinks being “busy as a bee” can’t cause much trouble. But she is wrong as she insults a friend by not stopping to chat and a big tidy spree means she misses out on a picnic, she also gets in trouble with her mom for not helping her sister. She decides to return the book, but the cottage has disappeared! She wonders if the old woman was a witch, because she can’t think of any other explanation. Not able to return the book, she hides it under her bed instead. Things are going better now that she’s back to normal, she’s even nominated for class service award because of her cheerfulness and helpfulness. But at home Mom is tidying Patsy’s room and comes across the book, she puts it back on the shelf, but it falls open on a picture of a mule. Straight away Patsy refuses to help a new girl out and stubbornly takes her time in changing room after a prefect tells her to hurry up, causing her to miss her bus. She gets the next bus but her English teacher sees her refuse to give up her seat for an old lady. Her teacher will no longer recommend her for the award, meaning she will lose out because of the book again.

Patsy tries to get rid of the book throwing it in the bin, but it falls out when the bin collectors come around, opening on a picture of a fox. Patsy soon finds herself slyly getting out of class by feigning sickness and getting a girl in trouble for making a joke about her. She finds the book by the house and once again tries to get rid of it by throwing it in the river, while out with her family but her Lorna, finds it. Her brother teases her about it looking at a page of two crossed stick, this makes her bad tempered, she even insists she will walk home. She throws the book in a bin on the way home. Again the book returns to her as it has magically got her name and address written inside it. She tries to hide it in the wardrobe, but of course it doesn’t stay hidden long. This does work out better than some of the previous pages, as she becomes as courageous as a lion. She speaks up to tough teacher and rescues a cat from a tree. She goes on to rescue a girl from a mine shaft, she gets unwanted attention from reporters because of this. Even if it did good, Patsy doesn’t want to be turned into something she’s not. Looking through the book she comes up with the idea to stick her own picture on a blank page. That day Patsy is happy to be herself and she returns home to find the book has disappeared, the spell has been broken.

Thoughts

Another supernatural story to finish out this Halloween month. While I like the title, it doesn’t seem to fit with the actual content, I can maybe see the shocks but not too sure where the shivers come into it. To me “shocks and shivers” implies more creepiness/ spookiness, but it is an interesting title, maybe one they didn’t want to pass up. While the book causes problems, both it and the witch aren’t evil and malicious, it is Patsy’s own wish that is the start of the problem. We don’t find much out about the mysterious witch, or why her cottage disappeared, did she really want to grant Patsy’s wish or did she want to teach her a lesson? In any case it does teach Patsy to be happy with herself as the book only disappears after she accepts that. While most pages cause trouble, we can see how others may work out if one was inclined to be different, such as the lion. So it is good that Patsy sees she has good qualities herself and doesn’t need to be top of the class or a hero.

The way the book works is interesting using common idioms to model her behavior. Most of the time the reader sees the picture first and can guess how Patsy will act i.e the fox means she will be “sly as a fox”.  A similar story “The Many Faces of Moppet” has a girl rescue a doll and finds herself acting accordingly to whatever expression the doll makes. In that case it is not something she wished for, and there doesn’t appear to be magic involved, but it does cause just as much problems as Patsy’s book. Patsy makes for a likeable protagonist, even when she wishes she could be as good at something like others, there is never jealousy of the people. Ironically her chance to win something due to her own good qualities is lost because of the book, Patsy hadn’t considered that being helpful and nice were special qualities themselves. I like the resolution of the story with Patsy using her own picture, like many cursed objects, the book cannot simply be gotten rid off to break the spell.

 

The Mascot

Plot

Alison Johnson was delighted when she was given a toy panda as a gift, but she had begun to feel that there was something odd about it. It was having strange effect on people. Now a strange woman who called herself  “The Spirit of Revenge” was making Alison attack her sister, Stephanie, at home.

Notes

Appeared

  • The Mascot – Suzy: #171 (14 December 1985) – #178 (1 February 1986)

The Bewitched Ballet Shoes

  • The Bewitched Ballet Shoes – Judy: #160 (02 Feb. 1963) – #166 (16 Mar. 1963)

Plot

Beth Rogan lives in a caravan with her grandmother Old Meg. When Wilbur Wilson’s circus comes to the town he rents the field where Old Meg’s caravan has stood for years, so when she is evicted from the field, she vows revenge on the circus. She instructs Beth to sell bewitched ballet shoes to the high wire ballerina. Beth is scared of old Meg so she goes to the circus but decides not to give them to the ballerina. Unluckily she bumps into the ballerina, Sheena, who sees the shoes are her size and insists on trying them. She dances beautifully but seems to dance longer than intended. Beth asks Sheena for a job and ballet lessons as payment. She tries to keep an eye on Sheena but on the first night Sheena falls from the high wire, luckily the safety net means she isn’t injured. Old Meg is still scheming and Beth is too afraid to defy her outright, when Meg gives her a potion to make the animals sleepy, she takes it, but empties it out later.

bewitched ballet shoes

Beth tries to burn the shoes but sparks fly at her and onto one of the tents setting it on fire. Together with the circus people, they manage to put out the fire but she is surprised to find the ballet shoes aren’t even singed. More bad luck falls on the circus when the lions turn on Lex the lion tamer. Lex rallies some other circus folk against Beth saying she’s a witch and they have had nothing but bad luck since she joined. Sheena steps in to stop them. More accidents happen as a trapeze artist falls and Sheena is shocked when her laces untie and wrap around the wire and she has to be saved by acrobats. Beth tries to hide the shoes and while she is doing this she sees someone stealing circus money. But she can’t explain why she was in the owner, Mr Wilson’s, caravan. Beth catches Lex the lion tamer trying to hide the money. So Beth is given another chance, but her relief is short lived as Meg confronts Beth for turning her back on her and gives her one more chance to help or she will be destroyed.

bewitched ballet shoes 2

Old Meg’s next step is to kidnap Billy, the owner’s son. When Beth tries to stop her Meg attempts to run her over. Luckily Beth manages to jump on the caravan and gets to the boy. The caravan is chased by Mr Wilson and Meg takes a corner to sharp hitting the pavement, she is flung from the caravan and is killed. Beth believes with Meg dead the shoes will no longer be bewitched and their worries are over but it seems the circus still has obstacles to overcome. That night on the high wire Sheena finds herself unable to move, all that has happened has made her lose her nerve. Beth decides to leave the circus taking the shoes in the hope the circus will be safe. She is startled to run into what looks like Meg’s ghost but turns out to be Meg’s sister Mairi. After telling her all that has happened, Mairi puts a powerful spell on the shoes, so Beth can use them on the high wire. Beth convinces Mr Wilson put on another show and thanks to the shoes Beth’s performance is amazing. Soon Sheena returns recovered from her experience, she tells Beth to keep the shoes and they become a popular double act.

bewitched ballet shoes 3

 

Thoughts

A very early story from Judy, it is quite short at only 7 issues. There is not a lot of room for development but there is still a lot fitted into the few issues. There is the cursed shoes as well as Meg’s sabotage, the thief sub-plot and Beth also discovering a love of dancing. It would have been nice to have developed some of the circus people some more, Sheena’s first appearance give hints that she might be a bit of a diva, one of the clowns refer to her as “temperamental” and she shoves Beth aside on their first meeting but soon she is just nice, defending Beth and has the misfortune to have cursed shoes. It could have been interesting to see Sheena change her ways  because of the curse but maybe the writer didn’t want to make her too unsympathetic or didn’t have time to develop it more.

bewitched ballet shoes 4

Lex is set up as an antagonist to Beth, he is suspicious of her since he caught her pouring out the sleeping potion near the animals. Although he has reasons to suspect her knowing about the sabotage, it turns out he is not so innocent himself as he has outed as a thief, which is convenient for Beth. Another convenience is Mairi turning up with the excuse of not being around before because she didn’t agree with her sister’s dark curses. It is strange that we never know who cursed the shoes originally, it would make sense if Meg had done it,  but apparently they were given to Meg by an old gypsy. I wonder had they been used before on someone and what other cursed items had Meg in her possession?

It is an enjoyable read despite some flaws. I do like the art and the red tones bring a nice splash of colour. I also like that the ending isn’t rushed, even though it’s a short story, Meg getting killed isn’t the end of things. It takes one more installment to wrap things up, even if Mairi has a quite random appearance, it is good to take the time overcome one more hurdle.

Toys!

  • Toys! – Mandy PSL: #242
  • Artist: Norman Lee

Plot/Thoughts

With a tagline of “they’re cute ‘n’ cuddly- with minds of their owns!” it seems like this could be a Pixar Toy Story predecessor.  Instead this is a possessed toy story (so more “Chucky” than “Toy Story”).  We start off with our protagonist Jan buying material for the purpose of making soft toys. She finds a suspicious, creepy looking, old lady to buy material from. The old woman says the material is perfect for using with toys. So what could possibly go wrong?

Jan first uses the material to finish off  trousers for a toy clown. The clown is for her cousin Timmy that is in hospital. When she visits Tim the next day and is surprised when he tells her the clown was juggling for him. But as a rational person, she assumes this is because of the anesthetic and Tim’s over active imagination.

Next she finishes off a dog toy for her neighbour to have when she is teaching kids on the piano. She is surprised when the next day the neighbour comes back angry about the practical joke that Jan has played and saying she probably charged for the battery too. As Jan has no idea what she is talking about she checks the dog and can’t find anything.

Anyone that loves Toy Story may find the image of dog getting his stuffing ripped out traumatizing, but don’t worry she puts him back together again! After which she discovers the problem – when music plays the dog howls along with it. After this discovery she checks on Timmy’s clown and finds that Timmy wasn’t making stories up.

Her friend Liz is also having a problem with the teddy bear Jan gave her, he is eating all the honey in the house. Together they decide to investigate. All the toys have come from a new pattern book so they decide that this is the problem.

Yes I think those “funny” pages are actually called glossy pages. So their solution is not to use that book again and they just ignore the problem that there are toys doing cartwheels and eating honey etc.

When a friend wants something scary for Halloween Jan wants to avoid making something new. So she uses an old witch that she had given Liz. She ends up fixing the witch’s torn shawl with the cursed material. Liz also makes a hat for an old troll teddy Jan never finished.  They soon find that it was not the pattern book that was the problem, when the troll starts messing around in the garden and the witch displays some impressive powers.

Jan finally figures out it is the material that’s cursed.  She goes back to the market but of course in the tradition of mysterious people, the old woman’s disappeared.

Things are resolved quickly after this as Liz’s mum washes the teddy bear and it turns back to an ordinary toy. Ah water, the ultimate weapon against witches, aliens and possessed toys apparently!  So they manage to dunk all the rest of the toys as well.

So everything is resolved almost coincidentally, but I wonder if the material was the problem then surely removing it would have done made the toys inert as well. Also I’m not entirely sure what the old woman’s motivation was or what she hoped to achieve. She is happy to hear the material is being used for toys, so what would have happened if Jan just wanted it for clothes or making curtains or something.  What effect would that have had, it seems like it would need to be used for the specific reason of the personification of toys.

It doesn’t seem like it was a particularly evil scheme either. Other than the witch none of the toys seemed  evil or scary more of a nuisance and irritation. So I’m guessing her motivation is boredom and she only does this for entertainment and to annoy people.